new york fashion week
When I visited NYC for a fleeting four days this past February, I had such a great deal on my mind that I'm honestly surprised I filmed a single thing. That and I hate filming in the cold - my bare fingers freeze and lose all sense of dexterity. And boy was it ever cold.
I couldn't help but present what was probably a suspicious grin when I replied "I'm here for Fashion Week" when asked what my purpose was visiting the country. I'm not fashion-ey. I like clothes as much as the next guy and as a creative type I do like to say something with what I wear. But I'm not what I would consider fashion week material. But here I was at NYFW - tagging along with Charlie who was invited by Tommy Hilfiger. We were pretty out of our comfort zones - but we decided to run with it.
I'll admit I was not in a great mental state to play tourist or to really even spare a working hour to fashion week. New York was a pit stop between London and Canada - where I was going to film a short and I was a giant ball of stress. But I did my best to let it go - to pretend I had the time. I had missed a chance to see New York once before and I didn't want to spoil the opportunity again. It was my first time there - I needed to at least go up the Empire State building. I've seen Sleepless in Seattle too many times to deny myself that.
As per normal, my tourist checklist revolved squarely around food. This meant bagels, corned beef on rye at a delicatessen, and pizza. New York has ruined pizza for me. Nothing can live up to it. On Valentine's day our pizza delivery arrived to our hotel late, cold and looking a bit bleak. And it was the best damned pizza I've ever had. NYC pizza is magic.
We walked through a snowy Central Park and admired the view from the top of the Empire State Building on what was apparently - the coldest day in 20 years. Needless to say we didn't linger up there for long, and sadly there were no Tom Hanks sightings. We also visited the high-line, Chelsea Market and F.A.O. Schwarz. No Tom Hanks there either. (Sorry - is my Tom Hanks obsession showing?)
But mostly we just walked around and enjoyed the structure of the city. Everything in New York feels vaguely familiar because you've so often seen it on television and in films. It reminded me of a more worn-in, varied Toronto. It felt like a place I would want to live.
In between our touristic adventures we got a little window into fashion week. We went to the prep-day for the Tommy Hilfiger show, where models were getting fitted for their outfits - garments were having their final tweaks and we even witnessed a little photoshoot. Very exciting. As we left the building and crossed the street we noticed two models get caught out by the paparazzi - a slew of them walking eyes-glued-to-viewfinder into busy intersection. I couldn't believe their entire disinterest in the passing traffic. They threw every caution to the wind to get their photos, and the models obliged, striking a few poses before hailing a cab and disappearing down the street.
The show itself was quite mad. For my first fashion show I imagine it was pretty above and beyond the usual fare. It was held in an armoury, and the main room was outfitted to replicate an American football field - and it felt it. There were so many lights, so many people and immense attention to detail. We visited backstage and in a word it was overwhelming. Charlie and I both got a bit panicked trying to navigate through the crowd. It was flooded with models, make up and hair artists, press. A lot of people who looked important but of course I had no idea what they were doing. Truthfully I felt quite awkward sticking my camera in everybody's business. I'm not sure I would enjoy someone leering at me with a camera whilst trying to work.
The show itself absolutely flew by - and I was so struck by the theatrics of it. It felt impossible to take it all in - all the clothing. To be honest I found myself wrapped up in the models themselves - wondering what they were thinking, how they got to where they were in their career - if they were worried they would fall in their heels. I'm sure this is not what you're meant to notice at a fashion show, but I find it difficult to turn off my over-developed empathy. You can tell the models are meant to be blank canvasses. All uniformly beautiful, sharing features and sporting the same make up, mostly expressionless (while that in itself is an intended expression I'm sure). I thought for certain I would feel intimidated by these women, that their beauty would inspire jealousy within me, that I would totally misunderstand them. The truth is, I felt far more out of place in the audience than I did when I was backstage.
In the end we boarded a tiny plane to take us ever-so-slightly north, to a neighbouring town to where I grew up. When we cut through the clouds on our descent, all you could see was snow blanketed fields. This was my first time flying into an airport so close to home. As always happens when I come home, I got a lump in my throat and my eyes went a bit misty. This place seemed other-worldly to Charlie - who was experiencing his first harsh north american winter. But to me it is the norm which I base all my other experiences off of. It's what I know, and although every flight into the UK feels a bit more familiar each time, nothing beats the feeling of going home home. The moment the wheels hit the runway I suddenly feel grounded in a whole different way, an instant connection to the land where I'm from and a feeling like everyone I know is within reach. I was home, not for a rest but for a totally different kind of adventure. But we'll get to that later...